Music Together, Dancers Apart

November 10, 2010

I love the crazed look in Neil Greenberg’s eyes as he wiggles his fingers. Is he trying to be Merce? Is he recalling an improvisation? Is he sensing something peculiar in the air around him?


I also like the sly humor, for example, the way things happen in marginal, parenthetical spaces—slightly offstage, way up in the corners. Kind of like the title,
(like a vase)
 of this new piece at DTW. One person sways “offstage,” as though thinking of starting to dance, breaks out of it, and reaches out for a sip of water. Later two people do that in unison. The breaks are part of the choreography.


Each dancer has moments when their individuality shines. Paige Martin’s is when she comes out in a sprawling second-position plié and flails her arms until they vibrate, and vibrate so intensely that it almost derails her. Luke Miller’s moment is when he pokes his head out like a worried chicken. And another when he swishes his hips in a sassy walk.


But these are isolated moments. Too often the louche galumphing of the dancers dips into that area of performing demeanor where they look like they don’t care. Neil himself never looks like that.


Zeena Parkins’ music is more cogent and more focused than the dancing. When Parkins holds her hands at the ready, waiting for the precise moment to wring a sound from the harp, you feel her alertness more than that of the dancers. The last lap, she’s playing the harp, and Shayna Dunkelman on vibraphone falls dreamily into the harp phrase. It’s a quietly heavenly sound.


Another problem is that you never get the feeling that one dancer affects another (the way the two musicians affect each other). Occasionally, especially toward the end, two dance in unison, or in canon. But there is no cause and effect between them. That may be what Greenberg is going for—a sort of existential space where all moving figures are necessarily alone. That may account for the white floor (man, am I seeing alotta white floors these days). It emphasizes the empty space between the dancers. They are in a forest of space. What emphasizes the emptiness even more is that the four pillars and four vases in the space at the beginning get lifted and removed.


That lovely confluence of the harp and marimba at the end creates a well-earned harmony. But the six dancers, all together for the first time, are still separate from each other—with lots of white space in between.